Two South Korean soldier 'suffocate' during special forces training

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 1:13am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 1:13am

Two South Korean soldiers have died after apparent suffocation during training to withstand capture by an enemy, a military official said, in the latest mishap to hit armed forces already battling charges of physical abuse and lax oversight.

The two career soldiers, who were staff sergeants in a special forces unit, died late on Tuesday during endurance training in which they spent more than an hour with hoods over their heads and hands tied behind them, the official said.

The exact cause of death was being investigated but witness accounts indicate the two soldiers suffocated, the official said.

A third soldier was treated at a hospital and regained consciousness, the official added. Ten soldiers were participating in the exercise recently adopted from an overseas military, he said.

"This is the first time that we adopted the programme, which has been used by special warfare units in the US, Britain and Australia," an official at the Special Warfare Command was quoted as saying.

"There must have been some sloppiness in carrying out the training," Yonhap news agency quoted another official from the dead soldiers' unit as saying.

Military commanders have pledged to reform the armed forces and the treatment of conscripts who serve mandatory two year terms to dispel criticism after a series of deadly incidents.

The most recent outcry centred on physical and emotional abuse that led to the death of a conscript soldier in April.

This week, the military upgraded to homicide the charges against four soldiers facing a court martial after a human rights group exposed details of the case in July.

In June, a disgruntled conscript in a frontline unit went on a shooting spree, killing five soldiers and injuring seven, raising questions about the military's supervision of soldiers with personal or emotional problems.

The South Korean military has about 630,000 active duty soldiers, many of them conscripts, aimed at deterring aggression by North Korea, which is one of the world's most militarised states.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse